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19th Nov 2014

One-by-one: Why Conor McGregor would be stupid to miss UFC Fight Night 57

Conor McGregor will almost certainly face one of these fighters

Ben Kiely

Two of the most dangerous featherweights on the UFC’s roster go head-to-head this weekend. The main event at UFC Fight Night 57 is one that Conor McGregor fans simply can’t afford to miss.

Frankie Edgar will square off against Cub Swanson in the main event in Austin, Texas in the early hours of Sunday morning. A clash between the number two and three-ranked 145lb-ers should be watched carefully by Irish MMA as both are likely to face Conor McGregor at some stage.

Cub Swanson

There aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe Swanson’s current form. He hasn’t tasted defeat since losing his promotional debut to Ricardo Lamas in 2011. Swanson has racked up six-straight wins over tough opposition including Jeremy Stephens, Dustin Poirier and Ross Pearson.

What’s more impressive than the fighter’s he’s faced, is the manner in which he defeated them. Four of his six UFC wins have come by way of KO or TKO, each one more devastating than the last.

McGregor has done his best to stoke the flames of his intense rivalry with the American. The Notorious has constantly poked fun at Swanson’s weathered appearance claiming he’s over the hill,  that he might break his hip in the Octagon and citing Hans Moleman from the Simpsons as his exact doppelganger. McGregor had a pop at Swanson this week during the UFC’s Time Is Now event. The Dubliner during the presser that “he looks 95-years-old.”

The constant trash-talking at his expense must be starting to take its toll on Swanson. He recently tweeted that he he was promised a title shot with a win again against Edgaar despite the fact that Dana white has been hinting McGregor is next line to have a crack at Jose Aldo’s belt. All this has resulted in a bitter rivalry and a bout between the two fighters would be a very easy one to sell to fans.

Stylistically, it’s also a very intriguing match up. Swanson and McGregor both pride themselves on their striking prowess and both wield unforgiving knockout power. A bout between the two would be an all-out striking masterclass with both fighters trading on the feet. It would likely develop into a chess match of fakes, maintaining distance and setting up counters.

McGregor certainly has the edge over Swanson in terms of speed and footwork. The Irishman has showed immense improvement on the feet throughout his career and his ability to find angles while staying out of harms way means he would be an extremely tricky opponent for the high-flying Swanson.

The American has a slight advantage over McGregor on the mat as he holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu but that being said, it’s been a long time since The Notorious has been brought down to the ground. With all this buzz around McGregor 2.0, who is the say he hasn’t vastly improved his ground game? After all, he is training partners with arguably the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner on the continent in Gunnar Nelson.

Frankie Edgar

Frrankie Edgar comes into this bout off the back of an outstanding TKO victory over future Hall of Famer BJ Penn. The way the former lightweight champ broke down the fellow MMA legend was downright terrifying.

Having lost to Aldo in his featherweight debut in 2012, he is not really the guy the UFC want to fight the Brazilian for the belt in the near future. A much more logical bout for the matchmakers to set up for the New Jersey native would be against superstar McGregor.

You get a sense that Edgar is one of the few fighters McGregor genuinely respects. That doesn’t stop him from talking smack about him, although his insults are far less biting than they are for other fighters. Edgar has publicly acknowledged what the cult of McGregor has done to promote the 145lb division and once you add this to the fact that he is one of the most likable fighters in the promotion you can see why McGregor is reluctant to run his mouth about Edgar in the media.

Perhaps there’s another reason why McGregor doesn’t want to antagonise Edgar. Well, for one he probably poses the biggest threat to handing the Irishman his first loss in the UFC. A potential bout with the Notorious suits Edgar, stylistaclly. The Answer is an elite wrestler who can box with a devastating ground game, which is a lethal combination.

Finding the right approach to fighting Edgar would be a real dilemma for McGregor. Critics of the poster boy of Irish MMA have argued that he would struggle against an elite wrestler, and Edgar is as good as they come. And once he gets you down to the mat, he will unload a barrage of vicious ground and pound that can end a fight early.

Therefore you would think that he should try to work on his takedown defence for this bout. However, that could prove to be a fatal mistake as Edgar has introduced faking takedown shots into his game and using them to get inside and punish his opponent while their hands are down.

McGregor often says that he doesn’t prepare for fighters, he just works on improving his own game. Not having tactics going into a bout against Edgar who is an expert tactician. He would have to use his superior footwork to avoid the takedowns of the American and find angles where can unload his ferocious striking game. At it stands though, you would have to fancy Edgar to take home the win.

Cub Swanson takes on Frankie Edgar in the main event of UFC Fight Night 57 this Sunday 23 November. The main card kicks off at 3 am Irish time.